I Am No Longer Bound by Transgression

April 4, 2024

By Ma Jie, China

One day in July 2006, I was suddenly arrested on my way to a meeting with my co-workers. That night, I was taken to a secret location for interrogation. The police found receipts for church money on my person, and so they took turns interrogating me, pressuring me to give the names of the safekeepers of the church’s money and the senior leaders. I didn’t answer them, so they whipped me with a leather belt, handcuffed my wrists and hung me up using an iron chain. They tortured me like this for a week. I was thirsty and hungry, and I had no strength left at all. At some point, I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I wasn’t sure what they had given me to drink, but there was a strange taste in my mouth; it was choking me, and there were sharp pains all over my body. At that time, my flesh had reached the limit of what it could endure, and I didn’t know what they would do to me next. I was very scared; scared that I would be unable to bear the torture and become a Judas, and I prayed earnestly to God in my heart, asking Him to help me stand firm in my witness. Seeing that I had been tormented like this and still hadn’t sold out the church’s leaders and money, the police changed tact and used familial affection to lure me in, saying, “You haven’t been home in a few years. Your family and children must really miss you. Where is the church’s money? If you tell us everything, we will let you go home.” They also took out some cash and said that they had already found the safekeepers of the church’s money. Hearing this, I thought to myself, “Since they’ve already seized the money, it makes no difference whether I tell them or not. If I tell them something, then I might not be tortured anymore.” I told them about one of the families that safekept the church’s money, and the police had me take them to go collect this money. It was only then that I realized I’d fallen into their trap. At that time, I had endured all I could take. I thought to myself, “I’ve already sold out the safekeeping family. If I don’t take them there, they’ll certainly keep torturing me. What’s more, it’s been a week since I was arrested, and the church’s money may have been moved.” In this moment of ill judgment, I led the police to the home of the safekeeper. After the church heard the news of my arrest, they promptly moved the church’s money. The brother from the safekeeping family was nearly arrested, but under God’s protection, he escaped the police’s raid. Because they didn’t find the church’s money, the police arbitrarily sentenced me to one year and nine months in prison.

Each day I spent in jail was full of suffering and pain, especially when I thought of God’s words that said: “Toward those who showed Me not the slightest loyalty during times of tribulation, I shall be merciful no more, for My mercy only extends so far. I have no liking, furthermore, for anyone who has once betrayed Me, much less do I like to associate with those who sell out the interests of their friends. This is My disposition, regardless of who the person may be(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Prepare Sufficient Good Deeds for Your Destination). I knew very well that by selling out the brother, I had become a Judas. I had offended God’s disposition; I had committed an unforgivable sin. Thinking of this, my heart was in great pain. I had betrayed God; He certainly would not save me. My time of believing in God might have been completely finished. From then on, I was very dejected, and I spent each day in pain. My heart was suffering, and I felt I would be better off dead. I was just waiting to die, and on that day I would be free. Although I still prayed to God, whenever I thought of my transgression, I felt that God wouldn’t want me anymore, and I thought I wasn’t worthy of coming before Him. Two years after I was released from prison, the brothers and sisters found me, and seeing that I had some self-knowledge, they allowed me to resume my church life and arranged a duty for me. I was very touched and thought that God was giving me a chance to repent, and I felt even more like I owed Him. I wept bitter tears while praying to God, “God! I am truly not worthy of coming before You. When facing circumstances, I did not bear any testimony at all. I sold out the brother, becoming a Judas and a mark of shame. Today, You have given me a chance to return to the church and do my duty; I can see Your mercy.” In my heart, I secretly resolved to do my duty diligently, make up for my transgression, and repay God’s love. Later, no matter what duty the church arranged for me, I always eagerly cooperated. No matter how adverse the circumstances I encountered, I did not let these difficulties get me down. I wanted to do my best to make up for my transgression.

One day, I heard that Chen Hua got arrested and became a Judas, selling out many leaders, workers, and safekeeping families, and was then cleared out from the church. Hearing this news, I immediately thought of my own situation. I had also sold people out, which had almost led to the police seizing the church’s money, and because of this, the safekeeping brother couldn’t return home. I thought that the nature of my selling out the brother was the same as Chen Hua’s; it was a huge stain. God would not forgive my transgression. Now, Chen Hua had been cleared out from the church; maybe one day I would be cleared out and cast out as well. Thinking of this, I felt very dejected. After that, with any duty the church assigned me, although I would do it, I no longer had the vigor to expend myself for God that I did in the past. Sometimes, when I needed to pay a price and seek the truth principles, I wouldn’t seek them. I would just settle for getting the work done in the prescribed way and rendering a bit of service. I also didn’t consider whether my work was achieving results, relying only on a minimum level of conscience to sustain my duty. I remember that at the time, a sister was afraid of being arrested and didn’t dare to do her duty. I knew that I should help and support her, but as I had betrayed God, how was I qualified to give fellowship to others? I was in no mood to ponder how to fellowship to achieve results, and I only went through the motions and spoke a bit of doctrinal knowledge. I knew that approaching my duty with this attitude was not in line with God’s will, and I wanted to strive to turn my state around, but as soon as I thought of how I had committed such a huge transgression and had no hope of being saved, my heart felt weary, and I spent each day aimlessly. When I revealed corrupt dispositions in the performance of my duty, I knew that I should seek the truth to resolve my problem and that doing this would be advantageous to my work and to my life entry, but as soon as I thought of my unforgivable transgression and how I might be cleared out, I just couldn’t do it. It was enough for me to just complete my work every day, and I didn’t focus on seeking the truth to resolve my state. Later on, I often got headaches, and I had a recurring stomach illness. At the beginning, I would treat my state correctly, but over time, not only did I not recover from my illness, it also got more serious. I wondered if this illness was God’s punishment. In the past, I had betrayed God, making Him despise and detest me, and now I had fallen ill. God definitely didn’t want me. Sometimes, I produced no results in my duty, and I thought that God was not working on me. It was useless for me to continue pursuing the truth and doing my duty. Whenever I had these thoughts, I got an indescribable upset feeling in my heart. I truly regretted betraying God back then. If I had been able to endure a little longer, would I not have stood firm in my witness? Why did I sell out the brother? I hated myself for caring too much for my flesh and not having a heart that really wanted God. If I had stood firm in my witness back then, wouldn’t I then not have to endure this spiritual torment? The more I thought about it, the more upset I was, and I frequently lived in a state of negativity.

One time, I discussed my state with a sister, and she read me a passage of God’s words: “There is also another cause for people sinking into the emotion of depression, which is that some particular things happen to people before they’ve come of age or after they’ve grown into adults, that is, they commit some transgressions or do some idiotic things, foolish things, and ignorant things. They sink into depression because of these transgressions, because of these idiotic and ignorant things they’ve done. This kind of depression is a condemnation of oneself, and it is also a kind of determination of the kind of person they are. … Whenever they listen to a sermon or a fellowship on the truth, this depression slowly creeps into their mind and into their innermost heart, and they give themselves a grilling, asking, ‘Can I do this? Am I able to pursue the truth? Am I able to attain salvation? What kind of person am I? I did that thing before, I used to be that kind of person. Am I beyond saving? Will God still save me?’ Some people can sometimes let go of their emotion of depression and leave it behind. They take their sincerity and all the energy they can muster and apply them to performing their duty, their obligations, and their responsibilities, and can even put all their heart and mind into pursuing the truth and contemplating God’s words, and they pour their effort into God’s words. The moment some special situation or circumstance comes along, however, the emotion of depression takes hold of them once again and makes them feel incriminated again deep in their heart. They think to themselves, ‘You did that thing before, and you were that kind of person. Can you attain salvation? Is there any point in practicing the truth? What does God think of what you’ve done? Will God forgive you for what you’ve done? Can paying the price in this way now make up for that transgression?’ They often reproach themselves and feel incriminated deep inside, and they are always doubting, always grilling themselves with questions. They can never leave this emotion of depression behind them or cast it off, and they feel a perpetual sense of unease about the shameful thing they’ve done. So, despite having believed in God for so many years, it’s as if they’ve never listened to anything God has said nor understood it. It’s as if they don’t know whether attaining salvation has anything to do with them, whether they can be absolved and redeemed, or whether they are qualified to receive God’s judgment and chastisement and His salvation. They have no idea of all these things. Because they don’t receive any answers, and because they don’t get any accurate verdict, they feel constantly depressed deep inside. In their innermost heart, they recall what they did over and over again, they replay it in their mind over and over again, remembering how it all began and how it ended, remembering it all from start to finish. Regardless of how they remember it, they always feel sinful, and so they constantly feel depressed about this matter over the years. Even when they’re doing their duty, even when they’re in charge of a certain job, they still feel like they have no hope of being saved. Therefore, they never squarely face the matter of pursuing the truth and regard it as something most correct and important. They believe that the mistake they’ve made or the thing they’ve done in the past are looked poorly upon by most people, or that they may be condemned and despised by people, or even condemned by God. No matter what stage God’s work is at or how many utterances He has made, they never face the matter of pursuing the truth in the correct way. Why is this? They don’t have the courage to leave their depression behind. This is the final conclusion this type of person draws from having experienced this kind of thing, and because they don’t draw the correct conclusion, they are incapable of leaving their depression behind them(The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth I. How to Pursue the Truth (2)). These words of God were closely linked to my state. Actually, these few years, whenever I heard that someone was expelled for being a Judas, I would associate this with myself, believing that I had sold out the brother, been a Judas, and transgressed before God; would God still want me after that? Did I still have any hope of being saved? As soon as I thought of this, I would live in negativity. Although I would do my duty on the surface, I did not truly bear a burden on the inside, and I felt even more like pursuing the truth was unrelated to me. I always placed myself outside the ranks of those who pursued the truth. I did not dare to accept God’s words of guidance, encouragement, or exhortation, thinking that those words were not spoken for people such as me. I even felt that I was unworthy when making an oath in front of God, and that I was even more unworthy of accepting the judgment and chastisement of His words. Especially when I heard that Chen Hua had been a Judas and was cleared out, I thought that Chen Hua and I were one and the same. I wanted to save my own skin, so I sold out the church’s money and the brother, resulting in the brother being hunted and being unable to return home. For the sake of protecting myself, I brought such grave disaster upon this brother. I was truly too selfish, too lacking in humanity! The nature of my actions was that of Judas. According to what I had done, God could do anything to me. Even if He sent me down to hell, it wouldn’t be excessive. But God had not treated me based on my transgression at all, and He gave me a chance to live the church life and do my duty. That I could be alive and do my duty today was the grace and elevation of God. I should have pursued the truth and resolved my corruption, and repented and done my duty well. However, I was still wrapped up in my transgression, which made me worried about my prospects and destiny. Living in a state of dejection and negativity, I became more and more passive when doing my duty, which not only incurred losses in my work, but also interfered with my life entry. I lost many opportunities to gain the truth. After reading this passage of God’s words, I felt that God was speaking with me face-to-face. He did not want people to fall into dejection after committing a transgression; He wanted people to be able to self-reflect and continue striving in their pursuit. No matter the time, one must not give up on pursuing the truth. Seeing how real God’s love was, I resolved to seek the truth and cast off the shackles of my negative state.

Later on, I read some of God’s words: “People believe in God in order to be blessed, to be rewarded, to be crowned. Doesn’t this exist in everyone’s heart? It is a fact that it does. Although people don’t often talk about it, and even cover up their motive and desire to obtain blessings, this desire and motive deep in people’s hearts has always been unshakable. No matter how much spiritual theory people understand, what experience or knowledge they have, what duty they can perform, how much suffering they endure, or how much of a price they pay, they never let go of the motivation for blessings hidden deep in their hearts, and always silently labor in its service. Isn’t this the thing buried deepest inside people’s hearts? Without this motivation to receive blessings, how would you feel? With what attitude would you perform your duty and follow God? What would become of people if this motivation to receive blessings that is hidden in their hearts was gotten rid of? It is possible that many people would become negative, while some would become demotivated in their duties. They would lose interest in their belief in God, as if their soul had vanished. They would appear as if their heart had been snatched away. This is why I say the motivation for blessings is something hidden deep in people’s hearts(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Six Indicators of Life Growth). I saw that God exposes how believers in God all have their own underlying motives. It is all for the sake of gaining blessings, and once one’s prospects and destiny become involved and they cannot gain blessings, they think that believing in God is meaningless, they live in a state of dejection, and they don’t strive in their heart. This is man’s mistaken pursuit in his belief in God. I reflected on myself based on God’s words: Back then, when I had just accepted this stage of God’s work, I would expend myself and put in effort in any way to gain blessings. After being arrested, I sold out the brother and succumbed to transgression because I was afraid of enduring hardship and being tormented to death. I thought I would never have another chance to be saved, and I lived in a state of dejection and passed verdict on myself. After getting out of jail, my willingness to accept and submit in whichever duty I did was only to atone for my sins and to gain blessings, and was not true repentance. Once I thought that I could not be saved and that I would not gain blessings, I became so negative that I wasn’t in the mood to do my duty. I saw that I had been doing my duty for the sake of gaining blessings, that I had been making a transaction with God. I was just like Paul. Back then, Paul did whatever he could to resist the Lord Jesus, capturing and persecuting the Lord’s disciples, and in the end, he was struck down by a bright light. At that time, he only admitted to his sins, and later on, when he spread the gospel for the Lord, it was also for the sake of atoning; neither of these were true repentance and change. He did not know his own essence of resisting God, and when his work produced some results, he thought that he had capital, to the extent that he openly made a transaction with God, saying, “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8). He offended God’s disposition, and was cursed and punished by God. Pondering God’s words, I hated myself even more. I had done such a great evil and was still making a transaction with God; I had no reason whatsoever! Even if I didn’t have a good outcome and destination in the future, that would be God’s righteousness. It would be caused by my own evildoing and betrayal of God. The blisters on my feet come from the path I’ve walked; I must reap what I have sown. No matter what my outcome might be, I should take my position as a created being and do my duty well; this is the reason and practice that I should possess. I came before God and prayed to Him, “God! I believed in You to gain blessings and rewards, and in forsaking and expending I was making a transaction with You. I have no reason whatsoever! If someone had a dog, that dog would know to repay its owner and keep the home safe. But me… You watered and supplied me with so many truths and showed mercy and tolerance toward me, but I made a transaction with You. When I thought I might not have a good destination, I didn’t want to diligently do my duty. I’m even worse than a dog! God, I am willing to repent. No matter what my outcome is in the future, I will loyally do my duty and no longer believe in You for the sake of gaining blessings.”

After this, I read some more of God’s words that brought me some knowledge of His righteous disposition. Almighty God says: “Most people have transgressed and besmirched themselves in certain ways. For example, some people have resisted God and said blasphemous things; some people have rejected God’s commission and not performed their duty, and were spurned by God; some people have betrayed God when they were faced with temptations; some have betrayed God by signing the ‘Three Letters’ when they were under arrest; some have stolen offerings; some have squandered offerings; some have frequently disturbed the church life and caused harm to God’s chosen people; some have formed cliques and handled others roughly, making a shambles of the church; some have often spread notions and death, harming the brothers and sisters; and some have engaged in fornication and promiscuity, and have been a terrible influence. Suffice it to say that everyone has their transgressions and stains. Yet some people are able to accept the truth and repent, while others cannot and would die before repenting. So people should be treated according to their nature essence and their consistent behavior. Those who can repent are those who truly believe in God; but as for the truly unrepentant, those who should be cleared out and expelled will be cleared out and expelled. … God’s handling of each person is based in the actual situations of that person’s circumstances and background at the time, as well as in that person’s actions and behavior and their nature essence. God will never wrong anyone. This is one side of God’s righteousness. … God’s handling of a person is not as simple as people imagine. When His attitude toward a person is one of loathing or revulsion, or when it comes to what this person says in a given context, He has a good understanding of their states. This is because God scrutinizes man’s heart and essence. People are always thinking, ‘God has only His divinity. He is righteous and brooks no offense from man. He doesn’t consider man’s difficulties or put Himself in people’s shoes. If a person should resist God, He will punish them.’ That is not how things are at all. If that is how someone understands His righteousness, His work, and His treatment of people, they are gravely mistaken. God’s determination of each person’s outcome is not based in man’s notions and imaginings, but in God’s righteous disposition. He will repay each person according to what they have done. God is righteous, and sooner or later, He will see to it that all people are convinced, through and through(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). After reading God’s words, I understood that God has principles in His treatment of man. He does not determine people’s outcome based on a moment of transgression, but rather on the context and nature of people’s actions, and whether or not one is able to accept the truth and truly repent; this is God’s righteousness. Pondering this, I suddenly saw the light. I saw that there was not only righteous judgment in God’s treatment of man, but also mercy. He did not treat people with a one-size-fits-all approach. Thinking back to when I betrayed God because my flesh was weak, I believed that as long as I had done something like this, I would be condemned and cast out, and no matter how I repented, there was no way for me to be saved. Now, it seemed that I did not understand God’s righteous disposition. It’s like how when both Chen Hua and I sold out the interests of God’s house and the church gave me another chance to do my duty, it was mainly based on the context and nature of how I sold out the church, measured next to my consistent behavior when doing my duty. Back then, I was tortured by the police for seven days and nights, and my body couldn’t take it any longer. I didn’t see through Satan’s cunning scheme, and in a moment of weakness I betrayed God. It didn’t cause great losses, and afterward I was remorseful and loathed myself. This was considered a serious transgression, and God’s house gave me a chance to repent. Meanwhile, after Chen Hua was arrested, the police had merely asked her a few questions when she yielded to the abusive power of the great red dragon and sold out many leaders, workers, and homes of those who safekept books, leading to many brothers and sisters being arrested and causing enormous losses to the church’s work. Chen Hua’s transgression was not a moment of weakness; she had the essence of a Judas. The church cleared her out based on the nature of her actions and the consequences they brought. This was entirely God’s righteousness. Understanding this much, I had some knowledge of God’s righteous disposition, and saw that His disposition was beautiful and good. However, I had been on guard against and doubting God, and now I felt even more that I owed Him. I resolved to repent and change, and if I was ever arrested and persecuted again, no matter how much pain my flesh was in, and even if I died, I would stand firm in my witness for God and humiliate Satan, no longer betraying God.

Later, I read another passage of God’s words and learned how I should treat my transgression. Almighty God says: “And how can you be absolved and forgiven by God? This depends on your heart. If you truly confess, truly recognize your mistake and your problem, and whether it be a transgression that you’ve committed or a sin, you adopt an attitude of true confession, you feel true hatred for what you’ve done, and you really turn yourself around, so that you will never do that wrong thing again, then, one day, you will receive God’s absolution and forgiveness, that is, God will no longer determine your end based on the ignorant, foolish, and dirty things you have done before. … Some people ask, ‘How much do I have to pray before I know that God has forgiven me?’ When you no longer feel incriminated by this matter, when you no longer slip into depression because of this matter, that is when you will have achieved results, and it will show that God has absolved you. When no one, no power, and no outside force can disturb you, and when you are not under the sway of any person, event, or thing, that is when you will have achieved results. This is the first step you need to take. The second step is that, while constantly beseeching God for absolution, you should actively seek the principles you should follow as you perform your duty—only by doing this will you be able to perform your duty well. Of course, this is also a practical action, a practical expression and attitude that make up for your transgression, and that proves that you are repentant and that you have turned yourself around; this is something you ought to do. How well do you perform your duty, the commission God gives to you? Do you approach it with a depressed attitude, or with the principles God requires you to follow? Do you offer up your loyalty? On what basis should God absolve you? Have you expressed any repentance? What are you showing to God? If you wish to receive God’s absolution, then you must first be sincere: You must have an attitude of earnest confession on the one hand, and you must also bring your sincerity and perform your duty well, otherwise there’s nothing to talk about. If you can do these two things, if you can move God with your sincerity and good faith, and have God absolve you of your sins, then you will be just like other people. God will look upon you in the same way as He looks upon other people, He will treat you in the same way as He treats other people, and He will judge and chastise, test and refine you just as He does other people—you will be treated no differently. In this way you will not only have the determination and desire to pursue the truth, but God will also enlighten you, guide you, and provide for you in the same way in your pursuit of the truth. Of course, because you now have a sincere and genuine desire and an earnest attitude, God will treat you no differently than anyone else and, just like other people, you will have the chance to attain salvation. You understand this, right? (Yes.)” (The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth I. How to Pursue the Truth (2)). Pondering God’s words, I understood that no matter what past transgressions one has committed, what God wants is their true repentance and change. If one makes a mistake, they must come before God and sincerely admit to their sins. Next, they must hold onto their duty and do it loyally, using practical actions to make up for their transgressions. It’s just like David, who had a prophet sent to speak to him by God, because he committed adultery by sleeping with Uriah’s wife. David knew that he had committed a sin, and he admitted it and showed self-remorse to God. He cried enough tears to make the bed in his room float, and when he reached old age, he wouldn’t even touch the maiden who warmed his blankets. Additionally, along with deeply regretting, he also used practical action to hold onto his duty, building a holy temple and leading the Israelis to worship Jehovah God. David’s attitude toward his transgression was not one of dejection, but rather one of being positive and moving forward. He had true repentance and change. There was also Peter, who denied the Lord three times and lost his testimony. Peter’s attitude was not one of dejection, either. Instead, he sincerely admitted to his transgressions before God and had true repentance. In the end, he was crucified upside down for the Lord as a testimony to his love for God. I had to follow the example of David and Peter, confront my transgression with positivity, and let go of my state of dejection, pursuing true repentance and change before God. This is the practice and attitude that I ought to have.

Later, I reflected on why I betrayed God when I was arrested back then. It was because I was too concerned with my flesh and cherished my own life too much. I thought of what the Lord Jesus said: “For whoever will save his life shall lose it: but whoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it(Luke 9:24). Actually, whether I live or die is orchestrated and ruled over by God. Even if I was persecuted by the police to the point of death, as long as I could stand firm in my witness for God, my death would have value and meaning. Now, I had betrayed God, and although my flesh was not enduring suffering, what I bore was the suffering of my heart. Whenever I thought of how I sold out the brother and the church’s money, it was as painful as if my heart had been pierced with a knife. This had become my permanent stain; my never-ending pain. In actuality, fleshly suffering is temporary, and it will pass if you just bear it, but a suffering heart lasts forever. I preserved my flesh but lost all peace and joy; I was living as a walking corpse. I thought of those brothers and sisters in jail who had stood firm in their witness. Although their flesh endured much suffering, and some were even beaten to death by the police, they died for justice. Such a death has value and meaning, and it is approved and remembered by God. I recognized that there was another aspect to why I sold out the church, which was that I didn’t discern the cunning scheme of the police. When I heard they say that they had found the church’s money, I thought that since they had already seized it, it didn’t matter whether I said anything or not. If I spoke up, I wouldn’t be tortured anymore. As a result, I lost my testimony. In reality, regardless of whether they had found the church’s money, I should have kept my mouth sealed. What God wanted was my loyalty and testimony. Having found the reason for my failure, I made a resolution: In the future, if I was arrested again, I would not sell out the church’s interests even if it meant death. Thinking back over the past few years, I had always been avoiding this problem. I was unwilling to face reality and resolve my own issue. Even though I hated myself, I had never truly known myself. I hadn’t emerged from my dejection. Under the guidance of God’s words, I finally eliminated the estrangement and misunderstandings between God and me. Now, God had graced me with doing the duty of watering newcomers, and I ought to carry out my watering work according to the principles, guide my brothers and sisters to understand the truth, lay down roots on the true way, and prepare good deeds. Now, I could treat my transgression correctly, and I no longer misunderstood or was on guard against God. I also opened up and fellowshipped about this experience of failure with the brothers and sisters, testifying to God’s righteous disposition. When we gathered in small groups, I actively fellowshipped, and when I encountered problems and difficulties in my duty, I could consciously seek the truth and reflect on myself. By practicing for a period of time, I clearly turned around my state, and God was guiding me in the performance of my duty. Seeing that God had not abandoned me due to my transgression and was still leading and guiding me, this made me realize that transgressing was not the most frightful thing that there was. As long as one sincerely repents and can practice the truth according to the principles, they can obtain God’s mercy and guidance. Just as God says: “God’s mercy and tolerance are not rare—man’s true repentance is(The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique II). That I am able to have this knowledge and these personal experiences is all due to God’s guidance! Glory be to God!

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